Nebraska post raises PTSD, Be the One awareness with ruck march

Nebraska post raises PTSD, Be the One awareness with ruck march

A few years ago, P.R. Halligan American Legion Post 163 in North Platte, Neb., conducted a health and job fair. A total of four people showed up.

That’s when Post 163 member John Miles and his fellow Legionnaires knew something had to change.

“We were like, ‘Man, we need to do something to get in the community eyes,’” Miles said. “That’s what we were aiming for: to get out in the public, do more for our community and see we what we can do.”

That’s what led to Post 163’s June 8 Heroes March, which consisted of a six- and a 12-mile ruck march carrying 35-pound packs, as well as six- and 12-mile runs. The theme of the event was post-traumatic stress disorder awareness, coinciding with PTSD Awareness Month.

Well over 100 runners and marchers took part in the event.

“This thing was a monster. It grew and grew and grew,” said Miles, who served as the race coordinator and will soon take over as Post 163’s adjutant. “This was definitely the biggest thing we’ve done in a lot of years.”

American Legion Post 163 Commander Joe Wiezorek, who became regularly active in the post in 2018, said the idea was tp reach out to the community while also sharing the issue of PTSD, veteran suicide and the Legion’s Be the One program to address the latter.

“John came up with the idea – ‘Let’s host a ruck march.’ And it just kind of grew from there,” said Wiezorek, who lost a close friend and fellow reservist to suicide. “The purpose was to get new members and more community involvement. Past two years we’ve done a pretty good job of growing the numbers and maintaining. But we wanted to get our name out there. And we needed a theme, and (Miles) thought it was a pretty good idea to do PTSD.”

Miles wanted to make sure the community knew the connection between PTSD and veteran suicide. “I think one of the leaders of veteran suicide is PTSD. So, we wanted to get some awareness out there,” he said. “We want to stop as many veteran suicides as we can. I think if we can stop even one suicide, I think it’s worth it.”

The post worked with Platte River Fitness Series, a local racing organization, to get some ideas for staging the runs and rucks, as well as for promotion of the event. “That was a great partnership because it helped us get out in the athletic community and probably drew in more people,” Wiezorek said. “Once we hit 50 (registrants) I thought we were going to have something. And then it grew from there.”

The post made it a point to share information about Be the One at the event. “We gave a challenge coin to all of the overall winners … with our race logo on one side and the Be the One symbol on the other side,” Wiezorek said. “And when Joe presented it to the winners, he gave them a little speech about Be the One.”

Money raised from the event will go to Post 163’s scholarship fund, which assists veterans, National Guardsmen and reservists in the area who are attending a post-secondary school. The fund was started with the proceeds from the funeral of Joe’s father, Larry Wiezorek.

Wiezorek said the event had another positive effect, sparking a local veteran and friend of Wiezorek to start a local veteran ruck club. “That’ll be a good club for veterans and civilians to get together and do things, and even more veterans to participate in something to possibly help with the mental health,” he said.

Click here to watch video of the ruck march.